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Promises delivered but cuts to RFS and NSW Fire & Rescue require answers says Labor

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Above: NSW Transport and Roads Minister and Member for Bega Andrew Constance. 

The NSW Labor Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Guy Zangari has called for an explanation from the NSW Government regarding cuts to the capital budgets of both Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service, announced in the State budget yesterday.  

Mr Zangari says, "the capital budgets of both Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service have been cut by 35.4 per cent and 75.2 per cent respectively – the equivalent to axing the jobs of at least 100 firefighters and 50 new firefighting trucks."

"NSW’s population has grown by between 80,000 and 120,000 each year over the past eight years. This continual growth has placed an ever-increasing demand on our frontline emergency services agencies and on the workers who put themselves in danger to protect the public.

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Meanwhile Member for Bega Andrew Constance says the 2019-20 budget cements major project spending in the region and will continue to deliver hundreds of jobs and provide essential infrastructure.

He says major projects announced prior to the state election for our region are funded and will be delivered during this term of Government.

“Projects that will have such a massive impact on our local communities were promised and I am pleased to tell you all that they will be delivered across the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla shires.

  • ·New Eurobodalla Hospital.
  • ·Nelligen Bridge.
  • ·Water Filtration for Brogo, Bermagui, Bega and Tathra.
  • ·New Bega and Tathra Police Stations.
  • ·New Batemans Bay TAFE.
  • ·New Bega TAFE Specialist Trade Centre.
  • ·Eden Port Welcome Centre.
  • ·Continued Princes Highway upgrades including, Moruya Bypass.
  • ·Road sealing works on Towamba to Burragate Roads, Eden Port/Princes Highway connectivity and Tantawangalo Mountain Road.
  • ·Community projects from playgrounds to sports grounds, halls and more.

“We will see some of our communities better connected with construction funding in excess of $600,000 for safe, shared paths and crossings including:

  • ·New pedestrian crossing on the Princes Highway in Pambula.
  • ·Completion of safety upgrades at Wolumla Public School, to ensure safe passage for some of our youngest community members and their families.
  • ·New Sylvan St from George Bass Drive to Banksia in Malua Bay shared path.
  • ·New Francis St from Coronation Drv to Elizabeth Drv in Broulee shared path.
  • ·New Sunshine Bay Road shared path.
  • ·New Foam St shared path at Surfside.
  • ·New Melaleuca Cres from Calga Cres to Yarrabee Drv, shared path incl. pedestrian refuge in Catalina.

“This budget reinforces the NSW Government commitment to deliver for regional areas at a magnitude never seen before,” Mr Constance said.

“The strong economic management of this Government is why we continue to deliver the infrastructure that those across our region should have access to.

“Locals know better than anyone that investment in diverse regions like ours - with everything from dairy and oyster farmers through to small business and tourism operators – health, education and emergency services make a huge impact on the state’s overall economy and community function,” Mr Constance said.

“Not only will our region see major infrastructure investment in many important projects and upgrades, we are also supporting families and those in community wherever we can. 

He says highlights in the 2019-20 budget that will see benefits realised across our region include:

  • ·$2.8 billion to recruit frontline health staff
  • ·$2.3 billion for vocational education and training
  • ·$1 billion for fixing country roads and bridges.
  • ·$449 million to clear maintenance backlogs in public schools by 2020.
  • ·$355 million to extend critical drought assistance for farmers and communities.
  • ·$100 million Stronger Country Communities fund for community based projects.
  • ·$120 million to expand before and after school care
  • ·$88.4 million for 100 additional school counsellors or psychologists and an additional 350 student support officers for our youth mental health needs.
  • ·$20 million additional funding for community Pre-School capital works.
  • ·Active kids rebate doubling to $200 for families from July 1.
  • ·Payroll tax threshold increase to $850,000 for small businesses.
  • ·100,000 fee free apprenticeships.

"We are supporting families with the continuation of the $100 creative kids vouchers, looking after students with smart and sustainable air-conditioning into schools, ensuring community mental health is supported, more teachers, more health professionals, better sports facilities and delivering the community infrastructure to our region we need and deserve."

For more information about the NSW Budget, please visit https://www.budget.nsw.gov.au/

Reaction from NSW Nature Conservation Council 

The NSW Nature Conservation Council says the "urgent need to protect species, slash climate pollution and ramp up clean energy in NSW have been largely overlooked in the budget."

“After her re-election the Premier said she wanted to make the environment a new focus for her government but judging from this budget it is just more of the same,” CEO Kate Smolski said.

“The Treasurer didn’t mention a single significant new clean-energy project in his speech, nor did he announce any significant new funding for nature conservation.

“Spending on renewables is only $142 million, which is just 0.15 per cent of the state’s $93 billion expenditure on infrastructure. That’s pathetic.

“The government boasts it is spending $300 million from the Climate Change Fund but does not say on what.

“In the past the government has misdirected these funds to projects like raising the Warragamba Dam wall that don’t reduce climate pollution and actually harm the environment.

“While NSW is gripped by drought this government’s response to the climate crisis is to talk about building dams.

“There is not enough water to fill the dams we have because climate change has made rainfall less reliable and droughts will continue to get worse unless we act urgently to cut our pollution.

“Building dams won’t make it rain. The best hope we have to address the crisis is to revegetate the landscape, stop burning coal and gas and slash our climate pollution.”

Ms Smolski welcomed modest funding for a new national park in south-west Sydney, $150 million for urban parks, and money for national parks infrastructure, all of which had been announced before the election.

“While new funding and a new park is always welcome, this government still has the worst record on national parks creation since the NSW network began to be built in the 1960s,” Ms Smolski said.

“We have barely half-built the reserve system we need to ensure the long-term survival of the unique native wildlife species and landscapes that make NSW such amazing place.

Reaction from NSW Farmers

NSW Farmers says regional NSW has been handed a large slice of the $93 billion NSW budget pie, which features infrastructure, health and drought support measures as its main ingredients. 

NSW Farmers President James Jackson says the Treasurer’s claim that this also is a ‘’budget for the bush” has merit, as it delivers critical investment in regional roads, hospitals, digital connectivity, drought support measures and frontline services.  

“Investment in regional communities was a key pillar of the NSW Farmers’ FOCUS pre-election campaign.” Mr Jackson said. 

“NSW Farmers asked for an $8 billion investment in regional transport and digital infrastructure, education and health. Thanks to a positive budget result and the Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund, the budget has started to meet this critical need for investment outside of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.”

The Budget papers have confirmed $1 billion over five years to improve country roads and bridges, $200 million to flood proof the Newell Highway between Forbes and West Wyalong, $19.2 million to commencer the Great Western Highway upgrade and $44 million for Silver City and Cobb highway upgrades. 

“It’s now time to fast track the planning of this infrastructure spend and get on with job of construction so regional communities can realise the long term benefits as soon as possible,”Mr Jackson said. 

“It’s also a healthy budget for health services in NSW. Upgrades to regional hospitals and health facilities are always welcome news, but the State Government has also recognised the mental health impact of this crippling drought and responded to our advice by investing more in farm gate counselling services.”

“For farmers, an additional $355 million for drought support measures for farmers and town water infrastructure and a $350 million top up for the Farm Innovation Fund is a welcome commitment.”

“Farmers and agriculture across the state will also benefit from the $3.4 million to start the extension of the wild dog fence and $24.4 million for three new Doppler radars in NSW.”

The popular Quad Bike Safety Improvement program scored an extra $2.8 million in funding, which now includes rebates of up $500 to purchase drone technology. 

“Let’s hope that the establishment of a Dairy Business advisory unit will bring benefits to dairy farmers and investment in research and development capacity though key partnerships will help in leading us out of the drought.”

“There are, however, some missed opportunities in this budget that would have inspired further improvements in local food and fibre production. There is no mention of boosting biosecurity or recognizing the environmental stewardship of farmers.”

“It’s good to see that the new independent Agriculture commissioner will be funded, but this an important role that needs to be appropriately resourced to start addressing the important issues of right to farm and illegal trespass.”